THE THIRD DAY (2018) BY FRANCESCO LONGO

Reviews

Director: Francesco Longo
Writer: Francesco Longo
Year: 2018
Starring: Roberto Ramon

Synopsis:
A man return to his home. Here, he will be faced with a dark truth, the world has been struck by a terrible plague.

Review:
With immediate effect a powerful, deep sound emanates from the speakers demanding your attention. This use of audio although somewhat generic, nonetheless elicits the desired response from the viewer and the short film, THE THIRD DAY, comes to life with a man bursting into his flat before frantically searching for some unknown item.

A sudden realisation or perhaps resignation comes over him as his erratic movement shifts from the external to the internal and starts to aggressively scratch his body. It is at this point that THE THIRD DAY gives us the old newsreader exposition cliche, filling us in regarding the backstory which here involves the standard tale of an infectious disease. Something our man is clearly showing the symptoms of.

Due to this and the brief length of the short – coming in at just under four-and-a-half minutes, THE THIRD DAY feels more like a strong pre-title sequence for a film in the vein of 28 DAYS LATER or the DAWN OF THE DEAD remake rather than a complete self contained piece. However based on the evidence of this and the directors previous work NYCTOPHOBIA I do hope that Francesco Longo gets the opportunity (not to mention budget) to expand this narrative into a longer piece of work.

Ghostly goings on at Villa Clara

blog

Well it is Halloween season, the time that ghosts, ghouls and goblins come out to play and everyone becomes a horror fan. But none of that really makes a jot of difference to this post as I will be talking about the Italian supernatural film Clara.

Now I am a big fan of paranormal & supernatural films and in recent years Hollywood has put out some good stuff such as some of the films in the INSIDIOUS and THE CONJURING series, not to mention the OUIJA sequel. However I do feel that the Europeans are often left behind in this genre, especially during the last decade or two, so I am hoping director Francesco Longo can prove me wrong with his upcoming feature-length effort CLARA, which is scheduled for a December 2018 completion date.

The story of the film sees the British woman Helen Ludovisi, an art graduate, inherit an old palazzo known as the ‘Villa Clara’ near the Italian city of Bologna.

Arriving in Italy with her boyfriend Jacob and three members of the cultural heritage superintendency of the United Kingdom, there to help with the restoration, the group discover a dark history to the villa which perhaps is not consigned to the past as strange occurrences start to haunt the group one-by-one.

I will admit that this in itself does not seem all that unique but as stated I am a fan of these types of films and let’s be honest the sub-genre is more about what you do within an almost standard framework rather than coming up with something wholly unique. I like to compare this situation with that of the artists working in the low renaissance where quite often the topics would be the same but the originality comes in how they present and individualise it. Judging from the photo stills that you can see at the end of this article I think you will agree that this is the case here.

This brings me on to the reason that I am giving this film a bit more attention – writer/director Francesco Longo. I have been left very impressed with his eye for a shot (again see the photos if you have not seen his short films), use of light and the strong narrative he has managed to display in his short films NYCTOPHOBIA and THE THIRD DAY, not to mention his contributions while working on the visual effects for INSANE; IN ARTICULO MORTIS and THE WICKED GIFT.

Additionally it would be remiss of me not to mention a couple of the cast for CLARA which includes Veronika Urban (NYCTOPHOBIA; HERBERT WEST: RE-ANIMATOR, the series by Ivan Zuccon), the prolific Michael Segal who has starred in too many contemporary Italian genre films to mention, and Roberto Ramon who returns to work with the director once more after starring in NYCTOPHOBIA and THE THIRD DAY.

In my opinion Francesco Longo certainly has the potential and the network in the contemporary Italian genre scene to make this work, especially if he does not play it too safe.

Keep an eye out for this film and the director. CLARA is expected to gain its premiere at the 2019 Creepy Crypt event in Berlin but you can keep up to date over on the official Facebook page.

AFTER MIDNIGHT (2018) BY VARIOUS DIRECTORS

Reviews

Directors: Various
Writers: Various
Year: 2018 [Various]
Starring: Various

Synopsis:
A collection of eight Italian short horror/sci-fi films.

Review:
Coming from Italian production houses ‘Demented Gore Production’ and ‘Moonlight Legacy Production’ is AFTER MIDNIGHT, a collection of eight short films bundled together.

As a result of this there is little thematic or production conformity between the stories, and as expected the quality does vary particularly as a lot of the short films used in this release were recorded for separate purposes.

On to the films and experienced director Daniele Misischia steps up first to the plate with ‘L’ultimo video di Sara’ (The last video of Sara) which thematically raises questions about not only our online desire for validation but also the attitude and acts in which online behaviour can elicit.

We watch as vlogger Sara tackles the issue of her own online trolls which has caused her to have to ban or ‘censor’ people on her channel. An act that some seemingly obsessive people did not like and have let her know. However as the vlog continues we begin to realise that she is not alone in her house.

On a superficial level this short film reminded me somewhat of the 2015 American horror film Ratter although arguably with a little more to say while the insertion of subliminal cuts offered a smart piece of variety to the single frame shot utilised throughout the rest of the short running time.

In my opinion ‘L’ultimo video di Sara’ is a solid effort but would work best as a web clip as opposed to being on a home entertainment release. Featuring reasonable Fx, a few nice ideas and a reasonable concept this story is a nice start to the collection but I would not have expected any less from this director.

We follow this with ‘The Taste of Survival’ from director Davide Pesca who has recently contributed to the anthologies A TASTE OF PHOBIA and DEEP WEB XXX (as well as previously contributing to the compilation 17 A MEZZANOTTE) and so he too should know a thing or two about making a short story work.

Set 27 years after an almost apocalyptic event, ‘The Taste of Flesh’ plays somewhat with traditional convention (good) but without committing enough to the required grindhouse style (bad – although the music was spot on) and coming across quite frankly as just a bit too modern and digital.

When one of the highlights is that one of the bad guys is wearing a Wacken festival t-shirt then you know that this segment is not living up to its potential and that is a shame as the concept works a little more than the execution.

Third up is ‘Nyctophobia’ from Francesco Longo. This is a short film that I have reviewed in detail previously on this very blog and so I won’t repeat myself and go into detail here. However it forms one of the strongest stories across the board (direction, acting, story) in this release and provides an entertaining, thoughtful and at times tense watch.

A tough act to follow but Davide Cancila is commendable in his effort which centres around an almost catatonic woman and her seemingly guilt-ridden yet caring brother. 

In its short time ‘Nel buio’ manages to smartly tell the past and show the present with a few twists thrown in along the way. Overall the supernatural horror is about guilt, revenge and penance and is worth a watch.

‘Io non le credo’ from Luca Bertossi is next up and sadly compared to the previous two stories feels a little incomplete. The majority of the short follows the dialogue between a man, afflicted by a demonic nun, and an unconvinced priest to whom he is begging for help.

Possessing all of the right pieces ‘Io non le credo’ just fails to pull it off in part due to some weak performances but perhaps mostly due to lacking any real set up or emotional involvement. That having been said it potentially could be seen as a nice critique on the cowardice and ineffective nature of the church. Either that or it was simply made because evil nuns are relatively popular now.

If ‘Io non le credo’ was attempting to capture what is popular now then ‘Escape from Madness’ from Nicola Pegg is trying capture the essence of a classic.

As a woman is walking through an empty park at night she soon realises that perhaps she is not alone as first thought. From here the viewer might be expecting this short to go one way but what classic influence could I have been previously referred to?

Well this influence bizarrely comes from Tobe Hooper and the seminal THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Now to say this is a rip-off would certainly be a bit harsh but ultimately the story descends into a fanboys dream to make.

Although competently made it would have certainly been improved with better SFX but with a brief ten minute run time ‘Escape from Madness’ does not overrun its welcome and will hit the mark. Not quite prime meat but enjoyable to digest nonetheless.

Now the penultimate story ‘Che serata di merda!’ (I translate as ‘That evening of shit’) from Roberto Albanesi is perhaps the lightest of all the shorts featured in the collection and the only one that is inherently tied to the release due to it’s self-and release-referential nature.

Considering he was behind NON NUATATE IN QUEL FIUME and the sequel, as well as being involved in the wraparound of CATACOMBA I had high hopes for ‘Che sedate di merda’ and the short certainly grew on me as it played.

In the short film a missing farmer re-appears blood covered and staggering through the small town while a couple share a glass of wine and a film at home….the NON NUATATE IN QUEL FIUME references are plentiful, I hope the director paid himself royalties!

In a true case of ‘I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER’ revenge it is unsurprising to see that these characters have some sort of prior business but here the narrative is not so straight forward as first the director himself turns up at the house (playing himself) and then through a dialogue with the farmer in which they discuss being the fictional construction of the real Roberto Albanesi.

It is in using this device that the film excels but the final takeaway message of “Let’s drink up” perhaps resonates the most.

We end with perhaps the most ambitious of all of the stories, ‘Haselwurm’, from director Eugenio Villani, which dates back to 2011 making it a strange choice to feature in terms of contemporary work (although thankfully the quality more than makes up for this).

‘Haselwurm’ initially plays as a sci-fi survival adventure as two explorers manage to capture a mythical haselwurm but during their struggle one of the duo was seemingly scratched by the creature with effects of an almost Lovecraftian or Ridley Scott nature.

Not only is the story interesting, and in my opinion should be developed into a feature-length, but along with ‘Nyctophobic’ it is one of the strongest entries in the collection thanks to a strong story, cinematography, Fx and editing. It is a shame that it is the last story but if you get the opportunity to watch this short – do so.

Overall AFTER MIDNIGHT is, as most collections often are, a mixed bag but unfortunately one where the weaker entries outnumber the strong (‘Nyctophobic’,’Nel buio’,’Haselwurm’). That being said these stronger entries are worth checking out but as someone who advocates the (slow) return of the contemporary Italian horror scene, AFTER MIDNIGHT as a holistic collection is perhaps not the best example to put forwards.

You can find out more about the film on the official Facebook page.

NYCTOPHOBIA (2017) BY FRANCESCO LONGO

Reviews

Director: Francesco Longo
Writers: Francesco Longo, Paolo Mercandante
Year: 2017
Starring: Roberto Ramon, Michael Segal, Roberto D’Antona

Synopsis:
When the darkness comes at night a man is tormented by visions of the past but are they only visions or something more?

Review:
The third in a trilogy of short films looking at phobias (with SKIZOPHRENIA, 2014, and CLAUSTROPHOBIA, 2015, coming before) from upcoming director Francesco Longo, NYCTOPHOBIA unsurprisingly focuses in on the fear of darkness and wastes no time with preamble, immediately introducing us to our main character, the man, as he returns home and gets ready to go to sleep. While attempting to doze off the film INSANE plays, a nice nod not only to co-star Roberto D’Antona but also perhaps indicative of our man’s mental state and with it perhaps an analogy of what is about to occur – namely a psychological journey in which the darkness may or not be playing tricks.

One of the strengths here is that the setup is surprisingly very normal and grounded in reality, from the mysterious, unspecified creaking in the dark to the lying silently in bed trying to pin down the logical cause of the noise, helping make the situation more relatable and safe to us…that is until Longo introduces a few supernatural flourishes and things start to get a little creepy.

A menacing tone starts to pervade throughout the film, suddenly we are unsure as to what is real or imagined as things start to go south for our man and surreal for us pretty quickly. It is worth noting here in the realisation or rather visualisation of events that things do come across a little like I imagine they would in the mind of Rob Zombie from the crazy blonde chick to the interpretation of the devil and from this it has to be noted that the success of this film on a personal level may depend on your own stylistic preference for this type of horror. Although for my British readers imagine the writers of PSYCHOVILLE and INSIDE NO.9 playing it a little straighter and that would give some indication of what to expect.

In short NYCTOPHOBIA is a decent watch that will entertain and one that ultimately achieves what it sets out to. It is not a mindless dull literal translation of the concept of a ‘scary dark’ à la recent Hollywood hogwash horror but rather a more thoughtful, internalised and dare I say European approach as to the true horrors brought about by the impenetrable mysterious darkness, one’s own mind…and perhaps some supernatural forces too.

Throughout the films brief run time Longo manages to expertly craft a decent amount of tension within a short amount of time thanks to an intelligent use of audio and strong pacing (aided by the editing choices) although perhaps the narrative itself is a little too obvious for the seasoned horror fan with the turn being seen from a mile away nonetheless this minor gripe does not detract to much from the film.

Oh and check out what time the lead character wakes up. Amityville or Italy – evil is the same everywhere (and disregards time zones).

Visit the films Facebook page here.

Version Reviewed:

I watched an online screener of the film.